Sematime wins The Next Web’s Startup World Nairobi, to pitch to Silicon Valley veterans in 2013

88mph-funded startup the Tusqee Systems had its new SMS billing service dubbed Sematime beat five other apps to emerge the finalist at The Next Web’s Startup World Nairobi codefest held at 88mph Garage Nairobi today.

Sematime is a creation of Boniface Githinji, CEO and founder Tusqee Systems Ltd. He is also behind the School SMS, an SMS service that lets parents and teachers monitor their students’ performances and school fees payments.

According to Githinji, it’s from the success of School SMS service that he was led to think corporate firms might need a similar service.

He says he approached one water company in the city with his bulk SMS idea in mind, and after presentation, another idea hit him and Sematime was born.

“I have never looked back since,” he said.

The high spot

The service supports SMS branding, 480-character text messaging and users can send unlimited SMS after signing up without downloading or installing any software.

Sematime’s dashboard is simple to use, he adds.

“It has an address book, message and e-bills section. This allows one to add contacts to the address book, send SMS, send eBills, manage user accounts as well as buy SMS units. One can also synchronize contacts from an Excel sheet.”

Githinji pitched his app and went back to his computer, a habit most coders are accustomed to. When Sematime was announced as the Startup World Nairobi winner moments later, Githinji was lost for words.

After a long pause, he said,”I am so excited, I didn’t even expect this. You know I wasn’t even thinking of winning.”

He hopes going to Silicon Valley would expose him to world-class entrepreneurs, VCs and networks capable of sharpening his coding and business skills.

“I have always had a feeling Sematime was the next big thing,” he said adding that he is not worried of the competition at the Valley as he is knows what Sematime means to corporate firms.

The SMS service will make it easy for users to communicate or send bills and invoices via SMS. Firms can choose free SMS branding enabling their text messages to bear a trade name.

Counting on the numbers

SMS-based applications in Kenya seem to be the developers’ general line of orientation. According to the CCK statistics, there were over 29 million mobile phone subscribers with over 1 billion Short Messaging Service (SMS) sent between January and March 2012. Githinji therefore counts on the assured market.

This is not the first time Tusqee Systems has impressed the judges, its premier product SchoolSMS emerged top at last year’s IPO48 challenge winning € 25 000 from 88mph investment fund where the firm operates from now with him and his team of two in the office and three others in the field getting the SMS solutions to schools and corporate clients.

The five others that participated in the Startup World Nairobi included Usalama, CardPlanet, PPOLL, Data Integrated and Hypecentury.

Saving the best for the finalists

Startup World is powered by The Next Web in partnership with I/O Ventures, Racksapce, Echo, Tropo, SeedCamp, Alcatel Lucent and Startup Africa to promote startups globally.

Hermonie Way the founder of Startup World told HumanIPO this year’s the global challenge seeks to identify the globe’s most innovative startups through over 30 locations.

The Nairobi event comes two days after the first Startup World Africa session was held in Cape Town, South Africa with Pashash taking the prize. Pashash, is a location sensitive mobile app that lets buyers share and discover cool stuff and best buys.

Pashash, Sematime and the Kigali and DAR regional winners will head to Silicon Valley in early 2013 to pitch at the grand finale and will each receive $37,000 in cash with Rackspace hosting for six months valued at US$ 3000, and 1 million Echo real-time streams valued at US$ 7000.

The Startup World’s Grand Finale winner will get a three-month incubation period worth $30,000 sponsored by i/o Ventures, one-year of hosting worth up to $24,000 sponsored by Rackspace, 5-million real-time Echo streams per month for one year worth $30,000 and coverage before the The Next Web’s global audience of nearly 8 million.

The Startup World Team will be headed to Kigali, Rwanda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for the third and the fourth sessions on September 12 and 14 respectively.

Sematime offerings

Sematime is available in three packages. Starter, which is free and ideal for individuals with an address book of only 1000 contacts. Pro, at KSh5999 per month (approx US$ 71) with unlimited contacts, free SMS branding, supports long SMS of up to 480 characters, allows contacts import from Excel, supports SMS e bills for upto 5 account users with 2, 200 free SMS units and full SMS status reporting. The third package Enterprise, is ideal for corporate frims at KSh11,999 (approx. US$ 142) a month with a dedicated account holder.


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